Dog-training facility at Zuni gets go-ahead

Published 7:43 am Saturday, January 24, 2009

ISLE OF WIGHT—A divided Board of Supervisors on Thursday rejected the advice of the county’s Planning Commission and approved a special-use permit for a commercial dog kennel at Zuni.

Nearly a dozen citizens voiced their opinions during a public hearing before the vote.

Supervisors voted 3-2 to reject the Planning Commission’s recommendation and approve the application by American K-9 Interdiction LLC. The facility, located at 5405 Hudson Lane, will board and train 200 dogs and house high explosives for use during dog training.

Applicant Paul Roushia and William Riddick, the attorney representing American K-9, were present to answer questions from the board. Board Vice Chairman Philip Bradshaw, who along with Chairman James B. Brown voted against the application, asked Riddick and Roushia, “If everybody in the area is against it, why would you want to put your business there?”

Bradshaw deemed the facility as “completely contradictory to our comprehensive plan.”

The Planning Commission had recommended more than a dozen conditions be met if the board approved the application. Conditions included stipulations regarding treatment of human and canine waste, biological assessments, and full enclosure and sound-proofing of the property.

Herb Degroft, a county school board member, spoke in favor of the application.

“We’re a business-friendly county. This is not flag-waving; it’s just good common sense,” he said.

Newport resident Sharon Heart also spoke in favor of the facility.

“I would suggest fencing the property. If there should ever be a dog that got away, that would contain (it) on the property. They will be using them elsewhere and even in our airports for bomb-sniffing,” said Heart, also calling the kennel a “very valuable commodity” and saying that “they have to be somewhere.”

Travis Luter, who resides on Thomas Woods Trail in Zuni, questioned the addition of the facility to a “small rural community.” Luter suggested that other locations in the county be considered and said that the facility is much more than just a place to keep dogs.

Other citizens, including Ethel Taylor, a trustee of Olive Branch Baptist Church, were less concerned with the purpose than with the location.

“My main concern is not that they’re building a dog kennel; my concern is where they’re building it,” said Taylor.

Supervisor Stan D. Clark, who made the motion for approval, said that citizens who don’t want businesses to be built in a rural community need to purchase the surrounding land.

Isle of Wight County Sheriff C.W. “Charlie” Phelps reported to the board about a farm in Zuni that had more than 50 horses and dogs removed from its premises, some of which were in “dire need of care.”

Phelps said that more than 30 dogs were turned over to the Golden Retriever Rescue League and that more than 50 dogs remained on the property. Horses were also turned over to the U.S. Equestrian Rescue League. Both rescue agencies have been working with the sheriff’s department to find homes for the animals.

“Right now (we) have not brought charges against” the owners, said Phelps, adding that the owners have two weeks to show improvement in conditions. “We will continue to monitor the horses that are left there.”